ELMIRA, N.Y. — The modus operandi for RIT this year, whether on purpose or not, has been to play a slow first period followed by an offensive explosion in the second to take control of games. Tonight’s contest at Elmira followed that formula straight from the book.
Elmira scored a goal late in the first period, despite being outplayed for much of it, to take a 1-0 lead. But RIT poured in four goals in the second period to take control of the game. Elmira took advantage of RIT penalties in the third period to tally two goals of their own to make it close, but the Tigers held on for the 4-3 victory.
“We got ourselves into a hairy game in Elmira, going right down to the end,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.”
“A loss at home, in the last time that we will ever play RIT here, is disappointing for our seniors, is disappointing for our club, and is disappointing for a lot of our alumni for sure,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “This is not the way that we were trying to send off RIT to the great land of Division I hockey.”
The Tigers opened the scoring twenty seconds in to the second period to open the onslaught, as they held the puck in the Elmira zone right off the opening faceoff. After digging in the corner, RIT chipped the puck out to Brad Harris who scored from a tight angle to tie the game 1-1.
“I thought our goal at the end of the first period would help us build up some momentum in the second period,” said Ceglarski. “We didn’t change anything, and tried to play the same aggressive forecheck. But RIT’s goal twenty seconds in to the second period took away that momentum pretty quick.”
The two teams skated evenly for the next ten minutes of the period, each having a handful of scoring chances. Then RIT took control of the game with a pair of goals only twenty four seconds apart.
Simone Lambert tallied a power play goal off a rebound at 10:35. And Roberto Orofiamma finished off a rush in to the Elmira zone at 10:59 with a goal to give RIT a 3-1 lead.
“The first two periods were probably as dominant as we have been all season,” said Wilson. “These two periods were very, very key for us.”
RIT chipped in a power play goal late in the period to extend its lead and put Elmira completely back on its heels. Darrell Draper finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play down the right side of the Soaring Eagles zone at 18:27 to score the goal and RIT finished the second period with a 4-1 lead.
“We came out pretty flat in the second period, and it showed giving up four goals,” said Ceglarski.
There was a smaller crowd than usual at the Murray Athletic Center for this long-time rivalry game, and that took away from the usual raucous pre-game atmosphere that fans have come to expect. That may have contributed to a slow start by the Soaring Eagles, who didn’t get their first shot on goal until 5:45 in to the contest.
“Obviously, a problem with our team all year long is not to be able to play a full sixty-minute game,” said Ceglarski.
RIT dominated play territorially during the first half of the opening period. Their best scoring chance came at the 9:30 mark, when Rob Tarantino intercepted a breakout pass deep in the Elmira zone. This set up a 2-on-0 odd-man advantage for RIT. Tarantino shot on net, Elmira goaltender Greg Fargo made the save, but the rebound squirted to the side of the crease. RIT’s Brad Harris collected it there and tried to wrist the puck high but Fargo made a leaping save across the crease to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Elmira finally started to mount offensive pressure mid-period and almost scored at 12:50 while on the power play. After a scramble in front of the RIT net, the puck came to rest just outside the goal line, with Tigers goaltender George Eliopoulos down and out. Tiger defender Stephen Burns was the first to reach the puck and he swatted it in to the corner to avert the goal.
Late in the period, Elmira was able to score and take a 1-0 lead while skating 4-on-4. Jason Cassells battled for the puck behind the RIT net, and was able to swat it out in to the crease. Linemate Justin Siebold was alone in the middle slot, near the hash marks, and one timed the puck high over Eliopoulos’ shoulder for the goal at 16:29.
Elmira regained a jump in its step during the second intermission, and opened the third period by pouring everything possible on the RIT net. The hardwork paid off at 3:07 when Michael Richard scored to pull Elmira to a 4-2 deficit. Richard wristed the puck from below the faceoff dot that deflected off the top of Eliopoulos’ left shoulder and dropped in to the far side of the net.
“We were able to come out and play with a sense of urgency in the third period,” said Ceglarski.
RIT had a golden opportunity to extend its lead at 7:34 when the Tigers were awarded a penalty shot. The penalty shot was awarded to Lambert after he was hauled down by Elmira’s Rick D’Elia while skating towards the Soaring Eagles net on a clean breakaway.
On the penalty shot, Lambert moved to Fargo’s right and tried to backhand the puck high. But Fargo collected it in his pads to make the save.
A pair of RIT penalties, including an elbowing major to Draper, gave Elmira the chance they were looking for. The Soaring Eagles finally played with desperation.
Elmira scored again to make the score 4-3 at 11:42. Jarrett Konkle placed a slapshot from the point just inside the right post to score the power play goal. Since the RIT player was in the box for a major penalty, Elmira continued on the power play but was unable to tally again during the advantage.
“We said in the locker room not to give Elmira anything on the ice to make it easy for them,” said Wilson. “But we did make it easy for them with the penalties.”
All of the action continued to be in the RIT end as time wound down. Elmira was pressing and the game finally felt like one of the classic battles that these two teams have fought over the years.
The Soaring Eagles pulled Fargo, and had the extra attacker for thirty three seconds, but they were unable to score the equalizer before the final buzzer sounded.